Double rent, eviction: Steps to “drive out” Syrians from Turkey

Mahmoud Pasha market, next to the Beyazit neighborhood in Istanbul - 30 August 2022 (Enab Baladi)

Mahmoud Pasha market, next to the Beyazit neighborhood in Istanbul - 30 August 2022 (Enab Baladi)

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Enab Baladi – Khaled al-Jeratli

As part of its plan to limit the residence of foreigners in certain areas of the cities and by an official decision of the Turkish government, the number of neighborhoods and areas in which foreigners are prohibited from residing has recently increased without exceptions.

Decisions took into account the necessity of distributing foreigners to neighborhoods and cities, especially with the rise in hate speech against foreigners in Turkey, but it did not take into account the rights of the target class in the decision and left them vulnerable to many types of exploitation.

It has become known to homeowners, with the implementation of the “pressure easing” decision, that a foreign resident cannot easily change his/her residence address, especially with the housing crisis in Istanbul.

A segment of home renters is now threatening Syrian residents and foreigners who have settled in Turkey in general with eviction or paying double amounts as rent for the house, with the accumulation of these laws in front of the refugees.

“Arbitrary” measures

The Turkish Immigration Administration began implementing the decision to close neighborhoods to foreigners in neighborhoods and cities after Turkish youths attacked the Altındağ neighborhood in Ankara, which is inhabited by Syrians.

The law stipulates the closure of neighborhoods in which foreigners constitute more than 25% of the population, while other neighborhoods remain open to foreigners until they touch 25% of the population as well.

Taha al-Ghazi, an activist in refugee rights issues, told Enab Baladi that the decisions of the Immigration Department have become arbitrary and are in line with the racist discourse of some Turkish political parties.

Al-Ghazi indicated that many cases were recorded in some states of threats received by Syrians to evict the homes they reside in or to double the rents to a rate that may reach 200%.

This is contrary to Turkish law, and the lack of alternative options forces the foreigner to pay these sums in order to avoid entering into the spiral of searching for an available neighborhood for residence.

Enab Baladi has monitored cases of Syrian tenants in Turkey, some of whom suffer from fear as a result of the threats they received from real estate owners to use violence against them.

Abdullah, 58, of Aleppo governorate, came to Turkey in 2013, after a period he spent in camps for the displaced inside Syria. He told Enab Baladi that the owner of his house is asking him to raise the house rent from 1,800 to 4,500 Turkish liras, which is an explicit violation of the law.

While he stands unable to find a solution, since the alternative offered by the homeowner is payment or eviction, and in light of the legal conditions that Syrians in Turkey suffer from, the best option remains for him to pay the required amount.

Abdullah suffers from a physical disability as a result of an old injury that made him unable to walk comfortably, while his three sons work in the field of sewing clothes so that the family can cover their needs, which means that raising the rent constitutes a financial pressure that exceeds the family’s ability.

Contracts “not valid”

Al-Ghazi told Enab Baladi that the contracts approved for renting homes are called “inter-agency” contracts, and they are signed between the landlord and the tenant without being certified by the notary public. In addition to oral contracts (an oral agreement between the two parties), which are approved between the landlord and the tenant, which is also considered invalid.

Al-Ghazi considered that this type of uncertified “inter-agency” contract cannot be approved by state institutions and advised the tenants to adopt lease contracts certified by the notary public.

Speaking of the legal status of tenants, Abdullah told Enab Baladi that he does not prefer to resort to the law in this type of case, as he fears that he will be deported to Syria in the event of a dispute between him and the owner of the house.

While the search for another house is very difficult because of the problems it brings with it in finding an area available for housing, or a house at an acceptable price, especially since house rents have doubled over the past few months due to economic inflation and the decline in the value of the Turkish currency against the US dollar.

What does Turkish law say?

The foreign resident’s ignorance of Turkish law in Turkey is one of the factors that constitute an obstacle to finding solutions regarding these problems, especially with regard to matters of residence and homes.

Lawyer Wassim Kassab Bashi, owner of the “Watan” law firm in Turkey, told Enab Baladi that the laws related to house rents in Turkey are always in the interest of the tenant.

Bashi considered that the most recent law issued by the Turkish government in this regard in the current year stipulated that an increase of 25% is allowed on lease contracts on an annual basis, and anything in excess of this percentage is considered a violation of Turkish law.

The homeowner is not entitled to claim an increase of more than this percentage on an annual basis during the first five years of residence in the house.

The house rent should be paid through the bank, the lawyer advised.

“If the tenant does not have a bank account, he/she can go to any “Ziraat” bank branch and deposit the amount directly in the name of the landlord, writing a note that this amount is the monthly house rent, he added.

When does the law vacate the property?

Lawyer Bashi pointed out many cases in which the house can be evicted, the first of which is if the tenant does not pay the rent for a maximum period of two months, in which case the homeowner can file a lawsuit to vacate the house.

Bashi pointed out that the lawsuit, in this case, may take six months until it is decided by the court.

According to the lawyer, the landlord does not have the right to threaten the tenant or attack the house under any circumstances, the police can be called in the event of these cases.

On the other hand, activist Taha al-Ghazi said that cases of house evictions have occurred in some areas due to complaints submitted by the building’s residents about the foreign tenant, demanding his/her eviction, or repeated complaints submitted by neighbors in the same building, about noise emanating from a house, which leads to its eviction at the end of the day.

Syrians’ rights on the Turkish election schedule

The recent legal procedures that foreigners in general and Syrians in particular face in Turkey are a reflection of the political discourse with the approaching elections, says activist al-Ghazi.

Procedures that restricted the lives of the tenants appeared without considering their need to register residence addresses in areas suitable for their places of work or for their children’s schools.

These laws restricted the lives of many Syrians and pushed others out of Turkey through illegal means and from there to Arab countries.

The file of the Syrian refugees in Turkey is considered one of the most present files during the promotion of the presidential election campaigns in Turkey, which over time, led to legal restrictions on their lives, causing a state of instability.

This political discourse has become seasonal, escalating, and declining with any elections taking place, even at the level of municipal elections.

In May, the number of Syrian refugees reached 3,761,267 Syrian refugees, accompanying Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s statement about his country’s project to return one million refugees.

The number of Syrians holding the temporary protection card (Kimlik) has decreased in four months by about 105,778 people.

The latest statistics issued by the General Presidency of Turkish Immigration on 27 October documented the presence of 3,611,143 Syrian refugees out of 3,655,489 people last September.

Some political parties’ electoral campaigns in Turkey rely on the project of deporting Syrian refugees and nothing else, which is reflected in the state of instability for refugees.

With the approach of the Turkish presidential elections, which will start in June 2023, thousands of Syrians left this country, some of them to Arab countries, and another part headed towards Europe through smuggling lines and illegal routes.

 

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